Below is a list of signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue as well as many great tips and resources.
What is caregiver burnout?
Being a caregiver for someone you know and love can be very rewarding, but it can also be exhausting and frustrating. It’s often emotionally, physically, and mentally draining. It tends to limit your social life and can cause financial problems.
Caregiver burnout occurs when the stress and burden from these negative effects become overwhelming, negatively affecting your life and health.
Signs and symptoms
There are warning signs before burnout occurs. Being aware of them helps you know when to take steps to manage or prevent the stress you’re experiencing.
General warning signs and symptoms for caregiver burnout include:
When it happens, caregiver burnout has both physical and emotional signs and symptoms. Physical signs and symptoms include:
The emotional signs and symptoms are less easy to recognize, and you may not notice them. Some of these are:
As burnout progresses and depression and anxiety increase, a caregiver may use alcohol or drugs, especially stimulants, to try to relieve the symptoms. This can lead to impairment, which increases the risk of harm to the person receiving care.
Research has shown the caregivers use both prescription drugs and illegal substances more than non-caregivers. It can become a very dangerous situation. A caregiver should stop providing care until they’re no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of caregiver burnout so you can recognize when you have them.
What is compassion fatigue?
While burnout occurs over time as a caregiver feels overwhelmed by the stress of caring for a loved one, compassion fatigue happens suddenly. It’s the loss of the ability to empathize and have compassion for other people, including the person you’re caring for.
It’s caused by the extreme stress that comes with empathizing with the suffering and traumatic experiences of the people you care for. It’s mainly been studied in healthcare workers, but it also happens to caregivers.
Some of the warning signs are:
Once it’s identified and dealt with through self-reflection and lifestyle changes, compassion fatigue usually gets better quickly. If you think you have it, you should see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as possible.
Burnout vs. depression
Burnout and depression are similar but separate conditions. They have many of the same symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety, and sadness, but there are some differences too. These include:
There are a number of things you can do to take care of yourself, stay healthy, and prevent burnout, including the following:
Maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit is essential for the well-being of both you and your loved one. Having a caregiver toolkit can help keep you balanced and organized. It’s also a resource you can use if you experience burnout warning signs.
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, an estimated 53 million American adults were unpaid caregivers in 2020. About 89 percent were caregivers for someone related to them, and about half of these cared for a parent.
Caregiver burnout is very common. In the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute survey, 40 percent of caregivers felt emotionally stressed, almost 20 percent said it caused financial problems, and about 20 percent felt physically strained.
Resources and support
Many resources are available to help you care for your loved one. Most caregivers have no training on what to do for a specific condition, so finding helpful resources is important.
There are websites for most chronic conditions and services you might need. Some of these resources are listed below:
There are also many websites with resources to help caregivers take care of themselves:
How to diagnose
Caregiver burnout can be diagnosed by your doctor or mental health provider. There are also self-assessment tests you can take to determine whether you have burnout.
Your doctor or healthcare professional will make the diagnosis by talking with you about what you’ve been doing and how you’re feeling. They’ll want to know how well you’re taking care of yourself and whether you’re taking enough breaks from the stress of caregiving.
They may give you questionnaires for depression or stress, but there are no blood or imaging tests that help make the diagnosis. You should tell your doctor that you’re caring for a loved one so they can watch for signs of burnout.
Caregiver burnout happens when the stress and burden of caring for a loved one becomes overwhelming. This causes a decline in your mental and physical health. Remember that burnout is a common occurrence in caregivers — you didn’t do anything to cause it.
The most important thing is to know the warning signs of caregiver burnout so you can recognize and even prevent them. Following the tips for preventing burnout and using the many resources available to caregivers will help you get to a healthier place.
Recommended reading and other resources
https://www.amazon.com/Already-Toast-Caregiving-Burnout-America-ebook/dp/B08BKSCN78 Book "Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America"
https://www.kawashington.com/already-toast.html More about "Already Toast" and resources!
https://www.sheilabattle.com/ Book 15 Minutes of Grace
https://www.thesoulcareacademy.com/ Online classes and soul care coaching